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UND helps teach Mayo employees

By Edie Grossfield

egrossfield@postbulletin.com

It's now possible to work at Mayo Clinic in Rochester while earning a four-year degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

The first 12 graduates of the clinical laboratory science program will receive their bachelor of science degrees during a commencement ceremony Sunday at the clinic.

The new collaborative program between UND and Mayo's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology enables clinical laboratory employees with two-year associate degrees to earn B.S. degrees while they continue working at Mayo.

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Seventy-five Mayo employees are expected to obtain degrees during the next five years through the program, the first of its kind at Mayo, said Susan Lehman, program director for Mayo's Clinical Laboratory Science Internship Program.

The students complete much of their coursework through online classes, and UND sends faculty down to teach six weeks of hands-on lab sessions. After those components are finished, the students go on to an internship in Mayo's labs.

Clinical laboratory scientists perform and analyze tests and examine body fluids, tissues and cells. They are in critical demand at Mayo and throughout the country, Lehman said.

The need for the lab workers is greater than the nation's nurse shortage, added Ruth Paur, program director for the UND Clinical Laboratory Science program.

Why North Dakota?

With the University of Minnesota nearby, including at University Center Rochester and the Twin Cities, why would Mayo develop a distance-learning degree with UND?

"It has everything to do with a needs assessment," Lehman said. "The University of North Dakota has been involved in distance education for at least 15 years ... They have a wealth of experience in this, and their infrastructure is supported to deliver this."

The collaboration between Mayo and UND is one example of how people in Rochester can obtain four-year degrees by piecing together education from different institutions.

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Though it works for many, it's not the preferred method, said Dr. Hugh Smith, chairman of the Mayo-Rochester Board of Governors.

"Higher education in Rochester is very fragmented, and we commit something over $5 million a year in complementing tuition for our employees to get complementary education," he said. "We know that they struggle because there's no single college with a clean curriculum."

Smith said he expects IBM also faces the same challenges as Mayo.

"The need (for a four-year institution) is there, and I think it's felt by many employers in our region," he said.

Staff writer Jeff Hansel contributed to this report.

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